The Network Effect: How Joining Forces With Fellow Freelancers Can Jumpstart Your CareerBy Ritika Puri December 24th, 2013
Freelance writing can feel lonely. When business is rough, a freelancer weathers the storm alone. When business is great, it’s a one-person party. But here’s the thing — it doesn’t have to be that way.
Freelancers are at a greater advantage than ever – even more so than their cubicle-bound counterparts — to learn and grow in business together. And the digital age makes collaboration easier than ever.
Stop Thinking Competitively
Fellow freelancers are not trying to steal business from you. Give them the benefit of the doubt that they want to see you succeed, and that, with two pairs of eyes on the market, you can help each other.
“There may be a few freelancers that I have initially perceived as competition, but that usually is a temporary feeling,” says Linsey Knerl of Knerl Family Media. “Once I get a better sense of what they truly offer, it’s possible to understand that we may not necessarily have the exact same client base.”
Plus, every freelancer brings unique qualities to the table. “We all have a different voice, experiences, and strengths,” explains Knerl.
Working together can lead to referrals and collaboration on projects. For example, when Knerl writes an article for a blog or magazine, she will include quotes and expertise from a fellow writer. Freelancers are naturally well connected and socially savvy, and they will promote the piece to a significant following because their quotes show off their expertise.
“It’s important to try to engage other freelancers in favor exchanges when possible, so that you can be known as a team player in the industry,” says Knerl. “Niceness is something that never goes unrewarded.”
Find Complementary Skillsets
A big advantage to working at a large company is access to talent. Specialists team up with other specialists to get cross-functional tasks done.
Freelance writing is no different.
“I’ve partnered with other freelance graphic artists for infographic materials as well as freelance developers for web content,” explains Twila Bergania, tech blogger for eCycleBest.com.
It would take years for a freelance writer to start from scratch and become a master designer. Team up with a designer, and you can instantly pursue bigger projects and clients with more significant needs.
“A one-person team is great and cost-effective but collaborating with other people helps a lot in getting things done,” says Bergania.
Freelance writers can use platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Coworks to locate potential collaborators. In the digital age, it’s possible to connect with anyone in the world. In addition, meetup.com features freelance writer gatherings in many major cities.
Build a Base for Scale
Successful freelancers will reach a point where they receive consistent inquiries for more work than they can handle. In turning this work away, however, they miss out on a valuable revenue opportunity.
Building a network of freelancers can give writers an opportunity to scale their operations beyond their immediate bandwidth.
“I have ongoing partnerships with a team of five freelance writers,” says Tom Ewer, professional blogger and founder of Leaving Work Behind. “I act as the middle man between my clients and my writers, serving as the single point of contact.”
Serving as the middle man provides an extra source of revenue. Plus, you get the value of serving as a mentor to his team of writers.
“I am delighted to be able to offer opportunities to up-and-coming freelance writers,” Ewer says. “By working with me they earn a decent rate and get the benefit of my experience. I would like to think that by working with me, they become better writers.”
Be Realistic About Expectations
With every partnership comes potential risks. It’s important to make sure that freelancers know what they’re getting into and have a strong sense of how and why they want to work with other professionals.
“The obvious opportunities are for freelancers with complementary skills partnering up to offer a more well-rounded service, but doing so requires a lot of planning and no small amount of risk,” says Ewer. “I personally felt that going into partnership with other freelancers would be more trouble that it’s worth. I’d rather focus on building my own business.”
Partnerships are fluid, and there is no cookie cutter way to cultivate them. Try out a few different methods as you charge forward.
Image via litlnemo / Flickr.com